Locked and Loaded

There are a couple of cocks in the yard across from mine. They have no sense of time.

Now the rainman gave me two cures
Then he said, “Jump right in”
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin
Like a fool I mixed them
And it strangled up my mind
Now people just get uglier
And I have no sense of time

I had to pitch in those Dylan lines, they’re just too wonderful to miss. Anyhow, back to the cock.

“The cock is the most hard-working animal,” the Chinese man said. “Not only wake himself up, but wake up all the other animals.”

I heard these words in a formal gathering in Qingdao, before an audience of one hundred, during the Year of the Cock. I’m pretty sure the guy who made that speech was fully aware of the double entendre. A small smile made him less inscrutable.

The cocks outside my window are valiant birds, but they do seem confused about biorhythm, and are prone to crow at bizarre times of the day and night. Maybe they’re calling the faithful to prayer.

Tomorrow I’m up dawn’s crack, and shall therefore beat the cock. By the time they crow I’ll be on a plane to Italy, and the next story I write will be about Christopher Columbus, since I’m headed for the city of his youth—that’s if you don’t believe Xpoforum was a Portuguese Jew, or a Catalan, Greek, or Pole.

Meanwhile, cocks and cockups appear to be the flavor du jour in Washington DC. There’s some discussion about whether the name is pronounced bayner or boner, but the hard-on the Republicans have about repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems terminally priapic.

Europeans as a whole are sympathetic to ACA, but in Portuguese there’s an endearing expression called ’emprenhar pelos ouvidos’, literally to get pregnant through your ears. People do it all the time, believing hearsay without any additional thought. Gossip magazines, reality shows, and fatheaded commentators specialize in this rather painful form of impregnation—if you do too much of it, you’ll end up with a medical condition called Hearing AIDS.

I decided to head for the ACA website to do my own due dilligence—I wanted to find out whether the Tea party’s boner was justified. So I took a survey. I answered as truthfully as I could, but in some cases economy was required. I told them I was a Texan—I remember a bunch of Tea Party (possibly iced tea) Texans getting exercised on TV about Obamacare yesterday. I claimed to have no health insurance.

I went as far as I could. I found out on the website that Texas is not expanding Medicaid—that’s a state option, not federal. I pulled out two snippets.

  • If your income is more than 100% of the federal poverty level — about $11,500 a year as a single person or about $23,500 for a family of 4 — you will be able to buy a private health insurance plan in the Marketplace and may get lower costs based on your household size and income.
  • If you make less than about $11,500 a year as a single person or about $23,500 for a family of 4, you may not qualify for lower costs for private insurance based on your income. However, you may be eligible for Medicaid, even without the expansion, based on your state’s existing rules.

The first thing that strikes me is that the Portuguese minimum wage (for fourteen months in the year) is slightly below nine thousand two hundred dollars. There are an estimated 592,000 people in Portugal working below the federal poverty level.

Population below the federal poverty level in the U.S., 2011. This map was compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which bills itself as 'a trusted source of information in a health care world dominated by vested interests.'

Population below the federal poverty level in the U.S., 2011. This map was compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which bills itself as ‘a trusted source of information in a health care world dominated by vested interests.’

How about the U.S.? The map above shows an interesting asymmetry between north and south, with the notable exception of Florida—the fact that it’s a retirement community for affluent seniors from the north may have something to do with that.

When you look at that U.S. map, isn’t it a little like the panorama of European austerity?

The percentage of the population below the magic federal line is as low as ten percent in New Hampshire, but as high as twenty-seven percent in New Mexico and Louisiana. Overall, the average seems to be in the teens, so on a nationwide scale we’re talking about fifty million people. Reuters quotes 46.2 million for 2012, so I’m not far off.

The magic line is about twenty-three and a half thousand dollars per year for a family of four. If we worked that one out for Portugal, many many Portuguese families would fall into this category.

The argument for ACA is not socialist or communist, it’s just a great nation demonstrating compassion and recognizing a basic human right—the right to a healthy life.

So this hard-on has now led to almost a week of federal lockdown. I think shutdown is too soft a word—you can open things that are shut.

Obama won’t shift on ACA, the GOP seems hostage to the Tea Party, and the world is watching America in disbelief. The next stage of the soap opera is the debt ceiling issue, and potential default. Wall Street shrugged it off early in the week, but by last Friday brown underwear was clearly in evidence.

If the situation endures these coming days, the financial markets will be rocking like a south-bound train. And if the default isn’t sorted come October 17th, the earthquake will be worse than Lisbon 1755.

The Portuguese falg carrier demonstrating boundless enthusiasm for Twitter this morning.

The Portuguese flag carrier demonstrating boundless enthusiasm for Twitter this morning. You can only be so much of a twit.

Twitter, valued at 1.2 billion dollars, despite losing sixty-nine million bucks in the first half of 2013, may consider delaying its IPO.

When I was trawling for all this, hoping to bring truth and reconciliation to a tablet or even a federal office near you, I came across the LHC. Good job there’s no imagination shutdown. Funny, too.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

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